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International Co-operation in Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology Research

Background

Consumers increasingly want to be assured that there are no harmful chemicals in their food. At present, each possible chemical contaminant is analysed individually in a few specialist laboratories, which is slow and expensive. The safety and health of Europe‘s citizens would be better protected by screening foods for the cumulative effect of naturally occurring and illegal contaminants in faster and more widely applicable processes. New technology offers the possibility of developing such methods.

Project profile

BioCop is a major five-year project to develop novel tools and methods based on emerging biotechnology to screen food for a range of chemical contaminants. It involves experts and specialists in food sciences from over 30 European universities, government agencies, industrial concerns and SMEs, as well as one from Canada. They are focusing on the most damaging contaminants, from natural toxins to heavy metals, in cereals, meats, seafood and processed food. The methods developed will be demonstrated and training given in their use.

International aspects

Many countries suffer problems from undesirable chemicals in foodstuffs. The cheaper and faster methods developed in BioCop could help them to improve controls.

Socio-economic significance

BioCop will have the following long-term socio-economic impact:

  • It will reduce the use of fish fry for making fish feed, thereby benefiting the marine environment
  • It will help to optimise conditions for aquaculture
  • It will support the production of nutritious fish that is safe and healthy to eat
  • It will help to safeguard the future of the international aquaculture industry
  • Overall, it will improve the health of Europe’s citizens and the global marine environment

Scientific significance

The project will contribute to the following scientific areas:

  • Definition of a range of feeds of vegetable origin, for farmed salmon, sea bass and bream in particular, to meet the needs of each species and its nutritional content as human food
  • The development of powerful DNA chips to monitor the growth, health and welfare of farmed fish
  • Development of feeding strategies to tailor the farmed product to meet specific human health requirements
  • Innovative toxicity tests to assess whether novel feeds can control key toxicants in farmed fish
  • Assessment of the health benefits of fish produced with new feeds on pregnant women and infants

Project outcomes

  • European consumers will have greater confidence in the safety of the food supply chain
  • The economic and social costs of outbreaks of chemically related food poisoning will be greatly reduced
  • European Maximum Level Residue targets and international standards for foods will be reinforced
  • The new analytical methods will have commercial value
  • Contamination testing will bring employment opportunities for personnel trained to use the new methods

Basic project information

  • Acronym: BIOCOP
  • Full project title: New Technologies to Screen Multiple Chemical Contaminants in Foods
  • Duration: 60 months
  • Starting year: 2005
  • EU funding: €9.6 million
  • FP6 instrument used: Integrated Project
  • Project coordinator:
    Chris Elliott
    Queen’s University,
    Belfast, United Kingdom
    chris.elliott@dardni.gov.uk
  • Third country partner(s) involved:
    Food Directorate, Health Canada, Ottawa (Canada)
  • Project website: www.biocop.org
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